Big Ten football is back on the calendar.
The conference suspended its entire fall sports calendar due to COVID-19 just a little over a month ago.
However, now the Big Ten is reversing course after the league’s presidents unanimously voted to start the season.
Big Ten football will now start the weekend of Oct. 24.
No Big Ten fans allowed
The conference originally put things on ice because of health concerns.
At the time, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren cited worsening conditions as the reason for the cancelation.
“Trends have not improved, they’ve become worse. You add that up, and you’re getting ready to go into more formal practice, it’s just a level of not only concerns, but unknown risks are large. When you’re dealing with the health of human beings, it’s serious.”
Now the conference is changing pace, and hoping that new safety measures will protect everyone involved.
One of those new safety protocols will be playing in empty stadiums. No spectators will be able to attend games this season.
The Big Ten will also be using a daily rapid testing program to help keep the season going. Players and coaches will take COVID tests before every practice and game.
If an athlete tests positive for the coronavirus, they’ll be out of the action for at least 21 days.
If more than 5% of a team is testing positive at any one time, that team won’t be able to practice or play games for at least seven days.
Those new guidelines come straight from Commissioner Warren’s “Return To Competition Task Force,” which was formed directly after the season’s original postponement.
Pressure from SEC?
The decision to cancel the Big Ten season drew a lot of criticism.
Considering that the conference has some of the best programs in college football, that decision was a tough one to make.
Obviously, schools like Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan never want a football season to end up in limbo. All three schools made the AP’s preseason top 25 poll.
Other conferences with the rest of the nation’s top teams were going full steam ahead with their seasons, which may have contributed to the Big Ten’s decision to return.
The ACC and SEC never postponed their seasons in the first place.
Given the cultural significance of football in the south, that’s hardly a surprise. Teams like Alabama and Clemson just weren’t going to sit out an entire season.
Regardless of the Big Ten’s reasons for returning, health will still be the biggest priority.
Dr. Jim Borchers, the co-chair of the Big Ten’s Return To Competition Task Force, says that he’s confident in the new safety procedures for the conference.
“Just like everything in medicine, it’s not like we invented this, but we investigated it and feel very comfortable with that approach moving forward and we know that if we can test daily with rapid testing in these small populations of teams, we’re very likely to reduce infectiousness inside practice and game competitions to near 100%. We can never say 100%, but we feel very confident that with that approach, we’ll be able to make our practice and competition environments as risk-free as we possibly can with this testing approach.
The Big Ten will likely release its schedule at some point this week.